“Canada’s Building Sector Faces Daunting Challenges in Decarbonization”
Canada has to decarbonize its building sector in order to achieve its climate goals, but as daunting challenges remain at the system level. The Building Momentum Toward Net Zero climate conference, co-hosted by the Canadian Climate Institute and the Net-Zero Advisory Body, brought together a panel of experts to discuss the current state and potential paths forward for reducing building emissions in Canada.
Technological Tools vs. Systemic Challenges
While Canada has the technological tools necessary to decarbonize its building sector, the system-level challenges are significant. The panelists discussed the availability of viable technologies such as cold-weather heat pumps, district energy systems, and hybrid heating to decarbonize heat in buildings. However, the real challenge lies in bringing various aspects together to enable a nationwide transition away from fossil-fuelled heating.
Existing Policies and Programs
Current policies such as the Canada Green Buildings Strategy may not be enough to put Canada back on track to meeting its climate goals. The panelists highlighted the need to enhance and amplify existing efficiency programs, without creating unnecessary duplication. Emphasizing the need for coordination, the panelists cautioned against maintaining disconnected grant and subsidy programs.
Challenges and Barriers
The panelists identified several challenges and barriers to decarbonizing building heat in Canada. There is a need for greater public awareness and education about new technologies such as heat pumps. Resistance to early adoption, especially in Indigenous communities, along with workforce availability and education, were also flagged as major obstacles.
Another critical consideration is maintaining efficiency at the foundation of the effort to address energy poverty. It is essential to ensure that lower-income Canadians are not left in draughty, inefficient homes with heat pumps that do not lower their bills or improve their comfort.
Community Priorities and Decision-Making
Understanding and responding to community priorities is imperative in the transition to decarbonized building heat. Special attention must be given to the unique challenges faced by Indigenous communities, where energy efficiency is crucial not only for emissions reduction but also for public health and quality of life.
Despite the existence of technological solutions and the expertise to implement them, Canada’s goal of decarbonizing its building sector by 2030 remains uncertain. The panelists acknowledged the complexity and the need for system-level adjustments to ensure a successful transition. The challenges and barriers are substantial, but the potential benefits – in terms of reduced emissions, clean energy, and public health improvements – are even greater. It is clear that addressing the decarbonization of building heat is not just about technology, but also about community engagement, education, and thoughtful policy and program design. To achieve significant progress, a concerted effort is required at every level of society and government.